Mets: Jay Bruce’s night at first base was a mixed bag
Well, the Mets got their first look at Jay Bruce playing first base Thursday night.
What was once a Spring Training phenomenon has now turned into a reality as the Mets have suffered through a slew of injuries in the last week.
Honestly, the Mets have benefited from not having to worry about Bruce in the first few weeks of the season. His newfound prowess at the plate and stable defensive play has helped to increase Bruce’s confidence in New York after the trouble of last season.
So, the move to first base probably shouldn’t spark as much alarm since his confidence should allow him handle the task better.
In terms of last night, the Mets largely played a sloppy game filled with three errors — including one play in which Bruce was charged with one.
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In the second inning, with the game scoreless, Aaron Altherr ripped a single to left field followed by an Altherr stolen base and a Tommy Joseph RBI double to right field. Then Freddy Galvis hit a chopper weakly toward first base and Bruce motioned over to field the ball.
The only problem was that he knew that he couldn’t make the play himself. Unfortunately, Noah Syndergaard and Neil Walker were both stampeding to first base as Bruce was preparing to flip it over. Then, when Syndergaard saw Walker coming over, he hesitated.
The same thing happened to Walker when he saw Syndergaard coming over. When the play wasn’t made by anybody, Galvis was able to scratch out an infield hit and RBI. Galvis was credited with a single (his only hit in 4 at-bats last night) while Bruce received an error.
Upon viewing the play, which came as the Phillies scored three runs in the second inning, there was some discouragement.
However, as the SNY broadcast and commentator Ron Darling explained, the play wasn’t directly Bruce’s fault even though he fielded the ball and was charged with an error. The issue really came down to Syndergaard not hustling to first base. As Syndergaard indicated after the game, “It was kind of a messed-up play from the get-go.”
But it was also reassuring to see the SNY cameras showing manager Terry Collins talking to Bruce about the play after the inning. While Bruce wasn’t necessarily responsible for the evolution of that play, it was really important to see the manager talking to his player so that he could better prepare him for future occurrences at first base.
Other than that, Bruce’s night in the field was relatively quiet. He manned the position well and caught every ball from his infielders. In the ninth inning, Bruce made a nice play on a ball from Odubel Herrera when he threw it to second base and nailed the lead runner (Cesar Hernandez). Those plays can always be tricky because it involves throwing the ball behind the runner heading toward second base.
Overall, Bruce wasn’t that bad in the field. It’s only one game and he faces many tests in the coming games. It’s almost certain that Bruce will get a majority of the reps during the Nationals series this weekend.
The interesting part was Bruce saying that he almost wasn’t as worried about actually playing the position as he was about what its like in a game-like atmosphere.
"“What I found is, fielding the ball is probably the easiest part of the whole thing. It’s the nuances of the game that you can’t really practice,” Bruce said after the game."
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For the Mets, this series against Philadelphia and more broadly this season, has illustrated how important health and depth is. Playing Bruce at first base is obviously not a long-term solution, but the team also needs to correct some flaws in its defense and lineup as they get set to play some pivotal early games against Washington.